KWAME NKRUMAH: AN ICON OF PAN-AFRICANISM
As midnight struck on March 6, 1957, the formidable Gold Coast became the Ghana we know today, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah declared: 'We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity. We again rededicate ourselves in the strugg
the anticipation, fear and excitement that the then Gold Coast citizens had can be felt in Kwame Nkrumah’s words when he spoke. Ghana was free. Free from colonialism, ready to take on the world. But what of the man who had pioneered this country’s independence, making it the first African country to achieve independence? Who exactly was this man commanding the attention of millions of Ghanaians on that defining day of March 6 1957: ‘Seeing you in this… It doesn’t matter how far my eyes go, I can see that you are here in your millions. And my last warning to you is that you are to stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody!’ We often hear of pioneers of Pan–Africanism, its fathers and originators. It is commonly forgotten what the original meaning is, and the impact and necessity it has on the continent. Pan-Africanist ideals emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to European colonisation and exploitation of the African continent. These destructive beliefs in turn gave birth to intensified forms of racism, the likes of which Pan-Africanism sought to eliminate. Minkah Makalani of Rutgers University described Pan–Africanism as: ‘…. actually reflecting a range of political views. At a basic level, it is a belief that African peoples, both on the African continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny. This sense of interconnected pasts and futures has taken many forms, especially in the creation of political institutions.’ THE BIRTH OF AN ICON – Kwame Nkrumah And one such great political institution that was created was that of Ghana. The face behind this first of its kind greatness was that of Kwame Nkrumah. Every mother hopes for greatness when they first hold their child in their arms. One tends to wonder what the simple retail trader Elizabeth Nyanibah (Kwame Nkrumah’s mother) imagined her son to be on the 21st of September 1909 when she gave birth to him. Born Francis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma in Nkroful, formely Gold Coast (now Ghana) to a goldsmith and retail trader for parent, Nkrumah spent nine years at a Roman Catholic elementary school in the area. Dedicated to the institute of education, Kwame managed to capture the attention of Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, Assistant Vice-Principal and the first African member of staff at the then Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota, securing him as a childhood mentor, while looking up to him for inspiration. All this happened, as he was pursuing his teaching qualification at the school. Dr Aggrey was the first African member of the college staff and his presence at the school did much to spark the flames of nationalism in the young Nkrumah. After Aggrey’s death in 1929, Nkrumah decided to further his education in the United States of America. Despite facing five years of financial challenges in order to leave, he successfully managed to leave and secure a BA degree from Lincoln University in 1939. He also received an STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) in 1942, a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942, and a Master of Arts in Philosophy the following year. During his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctor-
With constant imprisonments Nkrumah managed to secure the position of Prime Minister of a new independent Ghana, after the British government realized there was no doing away with him.
ates by Lincoln University, Moscow State University, Cairo University, Jagielloniaan University in Krakow, Poland, and Humboldt University in former East Germany. POLITICAL STRUGGLE Dr Nkrumah was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah. He returned to Ghana in 1947 to take up the position, but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People's Party (CPP). This was the beginning of the party’s constant resistance towards its government. In 1948, Nkrumah was arrested along with other party members, after the police suspected the party’s involvement in the recent riots that spurred up in Accra, Kumasi and other parts of the then Gold Coast. This happened after police fired on a group of protesting ex-serviceman. After he was released, he started working passionately towards the political and social betterment of Gold Coast. Many cocoa farmers, trade unions and women supported his way of thinking. In 1949, he formed a new party, The Convention People’s Party. Nkrumah’s belief in mobilising as many people as possible had resulted in the raising of consciousness among Ghanaians, many of whom soon began to articulate political demands, which were ahead of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Whereas the latter’s policy was centred on “self-government within the shortest possible time”, demands were already being made for "self-government now". After various imprisonments, Nkrumah managed to secure the position of Prime Minister of a new independent Ghana, after the British government relinquished power. On March 6 1957, Ghana was declared free by the first Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, as it became the first of Britain’s colonies to gain independence. Celebrations in Accra were the focus of world attention with scores of international reporters and photographers covering the event. Richard Nixon represented United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the event, while the Duchess of Kent represented Queen Elizabeth. Global congratulations and offers of assistance poured in from across the world, although Ghana was prosperous already with cocoa prices high and the potential of new resource development. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King were some of the notable guests that attended Ghana’s independence ceremony. King’s voyage was symbolic of a growing global alliance of oppressed peoples and was strategically well timed; his attendance represented an attempt to broaden the scope of the civil rights struggle in the United States on the heels of the successful Montgomery bus boycott. King identified with Ghana’s struggle; furthermore, he recognised a strong parallel between resistance against European colonialism in Africa and the struggle against racism in the United States. With years of hard work and political maneuvering, he then declared his plans to make Ghana a republic. The presidential
election and plebiscite on the constitution were held in 1960 and the constitution was changed, which led to Kwame Nkrumah’s election as the President of Ghana. ECONOMIC LEGACIES The economic legacies of President Nkrumah include the building of Tema Township, the Accra-Tema Motorway, Komfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi, University of Science and Technology, University of Cape Coast, polytechnics and second school around the country, Akosombo Dam, Adome Bridge and many more. As a man passionate about education ever since President Kwame Nkrumah, no other government in Ghana has embarked on such a massive infrastructural development. Some of the infrastructures listed above still remain the main infrastructure in many sectors of Ghana. Notwithstanding the above economic legacies, it has been suggested that when President Nkrumah became the leader of Ghana, Ghana had a much more promising economy compared to countries such as the then Ivory Coast, now C’ôte d’Ivoire. No great man comes without faults. President Nkrumah based substantial parts of his development projects on the socialist model, which was usually inferior in quality to the Western standards. Thus, some of the factories that he established would in the long run not be viable. He wasted a lot of money on his security, including using foreign personnel as part of his secret service. He also spent money on his ideological school, which trained the young people he indoctrinated through his young pioneer movement. President Nkrumah gave about 10 million pounds of Ghanaian money to Guinea because they were rebelling against France. Consequently, France withdrew its financial support to Guinea. This was a very inappropriate and reckless decision, which would undoubtedly remain the most serious financial loss caused to the nation of Ghana. Ten million pounds in 1960s translates to more than 450 million pounds in the value of today's currency, assuming the amount had been invested and earning an average interest rate
In 1957, Ghana was declared free by their Prime Minister Nkrumah, as it became a Commonwealth realm. With years of hard work and political manoeuvering, he declared his plans to make Ghana a republic.
of 10% per year. It appears that the ability of President Nkrumah to build numerous infrastructure projects in the early 1960s was primarily due to the enormous amount of money his government inherited from the British and the high international price of cocoa at the time. However, when the international price of cocoa began to plummet, he was unable to meet the challenges the economy faced. Compounding the economic woes was the endemic and rampant corruption among his ministers and poor economic planning, which also contributed to his economic failure. From 1960 onwards, Dr Nkrumah begun to suppress all forms of opposition, firstly, by outlawing regional-based political parties in Ashantiland, the North and the Volta region. The opposition parties had no choice but to unite. As the opposition parties came together under one umbrella, Dr Nkrumah used his parliamentary majority to ban all form of opposition and declared Ghana a one party state, and all forms of constructive criticism were totally suppressed. Eventually, the situation deteriorated to such a degree that all opponents were brutally suppressed, including people such as Dr J B Danquah, a prominent Ghanaian politician and lawyer, who was arrested on 8 January 1964 for allegedly being implicated in a plot against the President. He consequently suffered a heart attack and died, while in detention at Nsawam Medium Prison on 4 February 1965. EXILE AND DEATH In February 1966, soon after inaugurating the Volta Dam, Kwame Nkrumah left on a peace mission to end the Vietnam War, accompanied by senior members of his government. However, after years of political suppression, the inevitable happened as is so frequently the case with African politics - on 24 February 1966, while Kwame Nkrumah was on his peace mission in Vietnam, he was overthrown by a military coup. A junta of army and police officers, the National Liberation Council (NLC) took over power and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) was subsequently cut off from ordinary citizens who had suffered from an increasingly bad economic climate in Ghana, perpetuated from one government to another. After the military coup, Ghana strategically realigned itself with other countries internationally and also cut its close ties with Guinea and the Eastern Bloc, thereby accepting a new alliance with the Western Bloc. The government also invited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to take a leading role in steering the economy. Kwame Nkrumah never returned to Ghana again and continued to push for his vision of African unity. At first, He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. While reading, writing, corresponding and entertaining guests and despite retirement from public office, he still felt threatened by Western intelligence agencies. This caused him to live in constant fear of abduction and assassination. In 1971 and in frail health, he flew to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment, but he succumbed to prostate cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62. Nkrumah was buried in a tomb in the village of his birth, Nkroful, Ghana. While the tomb remains in Nkroful, his remains were transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra. Kwame did leave a legacy for Africans, best known politically for his strong commitment to and promotion of Pan-Africanism. He was inspired by the writings of black intellectuals such as Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and George Padmore, and much of his understanding and relationship to these men was created during his years in America as a student. Nkrumah became a passionate advocate of the "African Personality", embodied in the slogan "Africa for the Africans” viewing political independence as a prerequisite for economic independence. His dedication to Pan-Africanism in action attracted many intellectuals to his Ghanaian projects. However, some would say Kwame Nkrumah's biggest success in Pan-Africanism was his significant influence in the founding of the then Organisation of African Unity, now the Africa Union (AU). In his private life, Nkrumah married Fathia Ritzk, an Egyptian Coptic bank worker and former teacher, bearing him three children: Gamal (born 1959), Samia (born 1960), and Sekou (born 1963). Gamal is a newspaper journalist, while Samia and Sekou are politicians. Nkrumah also has another son, Francis (born 1962). “By far the greatest wrong, which the departing colonialists inflicted on us, and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable States, which bear no possibility of real development….we must unite for economic viability ”. Kwame Nkrumah’s words will forever be etched in the minds of Africans and never be forgotten.
Kwame Nkrumah in 1957. His first government under colonial rule started from 21 March 1952 until independence. However, his first independent government took office on 6 March 1957.